I first heard those words from my mother, never really giving them a second thought at the time, except what it would look like to be holding the tail of a tiger. It wasn’t until the other day, while talking to a friend about her child, that I found myself saying those words.
We were talking about how much energy and tenacity her son had and certain ways he would behave that “drove her bonkers”. I looked that euphemism up and, aside from being a song sung by Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, one of its meanings was, “a difficult, dangerous, or impossible situation”. Over the last 20 years of Youth and Children’s Ministry I’ve come across many parents who have described their child as wild, rambunctious, full of endless energy. So, what does this have to do with your child? Let me elaborate.
Why would you want to grab that tiger? To control it, of course. To keep it from acting like, well like a tiger.
I think about people like Kris Vallotton, Heidi Baker, Bob Hazlett, what were they like as kids? Did they drive their mothers crazy? Did King David get on his father’s last nerve and that’s why he was watching the sheep when Samuel came? I am not saying that a difficult or unruly child leads to a powerful general in the Kingdom, maybe they do. What I am saying is, take a moment to see what God sees when he looks at that four year-old boy taking apart your toaster. Where you see a stubborn, must-have-their-way child, does God see a tenacious, unwilling-to-move-until-the-Kingdom-comes man of God?
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes that child needs the rod of correction, but just as often they need those “gifts”, a.k.a. the things that drive us bonkers, recognized as gifts from the Lord.
I like to think of it like this…imagine a bull in the middle of a field. That bull is going to run around chasing cows, fighting other bulls and doing things bulls like to do. Now, imagine that bull in the middle of a china shop…you get the picture. The bull needs to do what it was created to do, but there is a proper place and time for that to happen. You can’t stop the bull from being a bull just because it’s in a china shop.
I know your child is not a bull, although somedays you may wonder. However, if you take that four year-old boy who was created to worship, who was made to be the next Christopher Olson, into a music store, what do you think he will do? As his parent you will be on edge as he runs around touching and picking up every instrument. You will be grabbing him by the tail trying to stop him from doing what he is passionate about.
Now that four year-old may not have the dexterity or strength it takes to pick up that $2000.00 guitar, this is where parenting or pastoring this gift comes into play. Sit down with him and let him touch it while you hold it. Tell him to look but don’t touch, and then take him to the toy store and buy him a toy guitar.
The idea is, rather than muzzling your kids and trying to stop them from doing these things, try to find activities and compromises that feed the passions and desires placed in them by Papa God.
So, the next time you are holding that little tiger of yours by the tail, stopping them from running up on the stage so they can play the drums, how about letting go of the tail and leading them up by the hand?